An interview with My Sherie Johnson
Since the 1940s, Americans have been watching television news to remain up-to-date on current events.
Every day, these audiences listen as television news reporters relay the latest information on topics related to crime, safety, health, education, politics, and a variety of other subjects.
So, what's it like to be a television news reporter? Is it a glamourous career? Or is it tougher than most people realize?
Bayou Trésors: How did you become interested in television news?
My Sherie Johnson: I’ve always been interested in the news, writing and media. English was my favorite subject in school and my mom would have the local news on every morning. She also read the newspaper every day. So, I was always exposed to news.
Then, when I got to high school, I joined a club called Louisiana Gear Up. It helped to prepare students for college by making arrangements for us to go to a college and experience dorm and campus life first hand.
The second time I participated in that Louisiana Gear Up activity, I went to camp at Louisiana Tech in Ruston and focused on journalism. That triggered my interest in journalism and after that week, I knew journalism was the career for me. If it hadn’t been for that club, I wouldn’t have gotten into journalism.
Bayou Trésors: What classes did you take to help jumpstart your career?
My Sherie Johnson: I’m from Central or “CenLa” as some people call it, in the Avoyelles Parish area and my high school offered dual enrollment, so that’s what I did my junior year. I took classes at LSU of Alexandria, and that gave me a jump start on college.
When I graduated from high school in 2015, I was still weighing my options. I’d been an athlete in high school, and so I received a scholarship for track and cross country at Louisiana College. I decided to go there and I studied Convergence Media, my concentrations were media production and Journalism.
I had very helpful mentors and professors there. One of my college professors, Mr. Al Quartemont, was the director at a local news station, KALB TV News Channel 5.
I also took a few PR classes with Dr. Elizabeth Christian and Mr. Jeff Young who taught Media Productions, they were both very instrumental in helping me to learn.
I’ve had several mentors and I feel like mentors are key anytime you’re learning something new.
I also interned at KALB, which was a local news station I’d grown up watching. I was really grateful to get my internship there, and then to eventually be hired from part-time to full-time at that station was like a dream come true. After my internship at KALB, I was hired full-time as a multimedia journalist and producer.
I also interned at a few local radio stations, which also gave me in-depth career knowledge and hands on experience.
Bayou Trésors: What were some of the challenges you faced as a reporter, and how did you overcome them?
My Sherie Johnson: It’s not an easy field. There are so many dynamics to it. You can plan for your day, but you never know what’s going to happen.
The main challenge I faced as a reporter was myself. I’m an overachiever and a slight perfectionist, and that really hindered me, big time.
I always wanted to do a good job and make everyone proud of me. To be honest, I never really overcame this challenge, but I learned to work around it.
I had to accept myself and the fact that whatever work I produced was my best.
Another challenge was pitching story ideas. I knew how to find story ideas because you learn how to do this when you’re in training.
But it can be challenging to find story ideas and present them as hard news in a way that makes sense.
I also had a struggle meeting my deadlines and presenting stories in certain required formats.
For example, when I started at Channel 5, my superiors started me off with simple things, but eventually they expected more from me. So, there were a lot of expectations to fulfill and though I knew how to do all of the work, I was lacking in experience when it came to producing video stories. In college, I’d focused more on articles and photojournalism.
That said, the first time I was required to present something in video story format, I nailed it!
To overcome my challenges, I had to work ahead, ask for help, learn to be open to criticism and be ready to change things on the fly.
Another challenge was to learn to leave work at work. Like, coming home and overanalyzing everything that happened during my day, especially any negative things related to work.
What helped with that was positive thinking, meditation, journaling, and setting strict boundaries. I had to keep reminding myself that I got the job done and did my best to avoid slipping back into old mindsets that were highly self-critical.
One saying that got me through that time is, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” It’s good to have role models but it can become toxic when you compare yourself to others, including role models. You never know what a person had to do to get where they are. You can admire and emulate others, but your work will always be different from theirs because they are they and you are you.
Bayou Trésors: What inspired you to keep enduring during tough times?
My Sherie Johnson: My mom and my family’s support inspired me to keep enduring. They kept telling me they enjoyed watching my work and reading my stories. Also, it’s so important to work with coworkers who encourage, motivate, and mentor you. It was always great to receive validation from coworkers and supervisors who’d say, “Hey, you’re doing great.”
It was also nice to get praise from viewers. I don’t mean in an egotistical way. Honestly, I didn’t like being on camera. I wished I didn’t have to put my face on camera. If I could have avoided it, I would have! But there were a couple of times when people sent me cards or left positive comments on Facebook, and that was nice!
News is tough, but not every day is bad. News is a cycle. It’s like a river. Some days are rough and other days are smooth.
I decided to take a break from news in the beginning of 2021, and I’m not afraid to admit this.
While it’s okay to cry, when I found myself crying too much at work or even before I got to work I knew my mental health was suffering.
When you find yourself enduring physical reactions to work or mental issues that are work related- such as depression- that’s when you need to take a step back.
In my life, it got to the point where it was reflected in my work. My news director suggested I take a step back.
Knowing when to take a step back after facing multiple challenges takes knowing yourself. As a reporter, not only is my face always on the line, but so is my station. That's why I always want to give my best work.
If you need to step away temporarily, that’s fine. You can take a break, and then go back. Besides, no one can take away your education or your training you’ve received. The experience you’ve gained will be everlasting.
So, I took a break in 2021 and then I went back. I felt great knowing I was able to take a year off and then I went back!
Bayou Trésors: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to become a reporter?
My Sherie Johnson: For one, I’d suggest really thinking about your “Why?” Take a second to ask yourself, “Why do I want to get into television news?”
I can’t say that anyone’s answer to that is wrong. But I can say that I didn’t get into the news industry because I wanted to be on television, I went into it because I have a passion for storytelling.
Additionally, television news should not be about the pay.
So, I would suggest doing more reading about journalism and the field in general. That kind of work takes a lot. You have to go to strangers and get them to open up to you. So, you have to be good with people and you need to understand human nature. One book that helped me was The Four Agreements: A Guide to Personal Freedom.
The four principles that the book highlights are:
(1) Always do your best and know your best will change everyday
(2) Don’t make assumptions
(3) Don’t take it personal
(4) Be impeccable with your words
I’d also recommend reading other books about journalism that will teach you how to write for broadcast news. For me, I enjoyed writing for print, but it’s different when you have to write for the broadcast side of news.
One book that helped me in this regard is Write Like You Talk by Jeff Butera. Another book I’d recommend is It Takes More than Good Looks to Succeed at TV News Reporting by Wayne Freedman. That book explains that it’s not all about looking cute on camera, that’s maybe five percent of the job.
Another book that was very impactful was called Aim for the Heart by Al Tompkins. It showed me the importance of humanizing every story. Every story should reach the viewer’s hearts. Media already has a bad reputation in that some people think we’re bias or promoting fake news. So, that’s why we have to leave our opinions out of stories as much as possible and only state the facts.
I also suggest learning to listen more than you talk, and asking as many questions as you can. When it comes to asking questions, it’s often a good idea to prepare your questions beforehand.
A few other tips are to:
Bayou Trésors: Now that you’re a teacher, are there any aspects of journalism career that have prepared you for your new role as a teacher?
My Sherie Johnson: Yes. I currently teach fourth-grade science and social studies at my former elementary school.
I’m able to apply lot of the things I learned in news. I went into teaching without any serious training. But the things I learned in journalism, such as researching, asking questions, proofreading, and learning to leave work at work- I’m doing all of that now.
Having a career that constantly changes and you never know what the day is going to bring has helped me as a teacher.
My experience in asking people questions has prepared me to be equipped to answer questions.
Teaching science and social studies involves a lot of research. I don’t know everything, but one thing I can do with my students is show them how to research.
The kids are always so amazed at how quickly I write, but this is something I learned how to do, thanks to my training.
Bayou Trésors: Do you think you’ll ever get back into the news industry?
My Sherie Johnson: Now that I’m in a transitionary phase of my career, I’d say that I miss journalism and I would like to go back.
But you don’t have to go into television news to be considered a journalist. So, though I’m open to going back to a big station, I’m also open to doing my own thing in another aspect of journalism.
And in retrospect, the only thing I’d change about my experience is how hard I was on myself. I’m grateful to have served as a journalist and I hope the profession continues to be one that people will hold to a high standard.
My Sherie uses her experience as a journalist and photojournalist in the classroom and in her entrepreneurial endeavors.
As a trained photographer, she's become the driving force behind A’mour Media, a company that specializes in photography and videography for weddings, graduations, and other special events.
My Sherie says, “I’ve always been interested in photography, I grew up with a camera in my face. I’m my father’s only child and he was always recording our memories. When I got older, I got a phone and used it to take pictures. Around my friends, I was always known as the one who was taking pictures.”
Use the button below to learn more about A’Mour Media.